Monday, December 29, 2014
Cindy Prascik's Reviews of The Theory of Everything, Unbroken, Into the Woods, Wild, and The Gambler
Dearest Blog, over the past four days, I've mainlined the five new releases offered by my cinema this week. Herein I offer brief (for me) takes on all of them.
Spoiler level here will be mild, limited to things you'll have learnt from the trailers.
First on the agenda: The Theory of Everything.
The Theory of Everything follows the brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking's life as seen through his relationship with the former Jane Wilde.
Well, dear reader(s), I'll be honest: Theory of Everything isn't the snooze-fest I expected. It's slow, for sure, but I wasn't bored. Positives include extraordinary performances all 'round, a surprising number of funny moments, and (fangirl alert!) Harry Lloyd and Charlie Cox in the same movie.
On the negative side, the movie tackles even the worst moments of what's surely been a sometimes-very-difficult life with a fairy-tale gloss, and (like 42 before it), its primary message seems to be that this extraordinary human being would be nothing without his devout and loving wife.
Not discounting the value of a quality spouse, but the movie really hits you over the head with it...though it *is* based on a book by the ex-Mrs. Hawking, so there you have it.
The Theory of Everything runs 123 minutes and is rated PG13 for "some thematic elements and suggestive material."
While it was better than I anticipated, I still don't consider it a fair contender in the Best Picture races.
Of a possible nine Weasleys, The Theory of Everything gets five.
Next up was Angelina Jolie's "based on a true story," Unbroken.
After his plane crashes during a WWII rescue mission, former US Olympian Louis Zamperini endures years of abuse in a Japanese POW camp.
This is a story well worth hearing, and it's a crime Unbroken does such a poor job telling it. From the first trailer, this reeked of awards desperation, crying out for nominations it doesn't half deserve.
A bloated runtime means that every single piece drags on too long. What should be the movie's most heartbreaking or inspiring moments are over-zealously wrung into eye-rolling territory, and the blandly competent performances are sadly well suited to this exercise in disappointment.
Unbroken clocks in at a painful 137 minutes and is rated PG13 for "war violence including intense sequences of brutality, and for brief language."
A plodding bore that manages to hit false notes with all its important moments, of a possible nine Weasleys, Unbroken gets two.
Third in my lineup was the musical Into the Woods.
A childless couple enters into an arrangement with a witch to end a curse placed on their family.
While attempting to keep up their end of the bargain, they encounter many-a famous fairy tale figure.
In the interest of full and fair disclosure, I'll admit that, while I love musicals, Into the Woods is not a favorite. I looked forward to the movie version due to some appealing casting, but I wasn't nearly as interested as if, say, someone would bring Taboo to the big screen. (Hint, hint...)
Sometimes it's a little too easy to forget how horrible and genuinely disturbing fairy tales can be. Into the Woods carries a dark tone throughout, and, if ever you're thinking, "Surely they wouldn't...???" well, yes, they probably would.
Pluses include Meryl Streep (do I even need to say that?), Emily Blunt (who has been fantastic at pretty opposite ends of the movie spectrum in 2014), Johnny Depp's Rum Tum Tugger-like Big Bad Wolf, the delightful James Corden, and Daniel Huttlestone, who proves the best part of this movie, as he previously did with Les Miserables.
Scenery and costumes are gorgeous, and there are some terrific laugh-out-loud moments, mostly courtesy of Chris Pine's Prince Charming. (If ever a man were born to play a handsome prince, it's gotta be Chris Pine.) Negatives are super-annoying and repetitive songs (yeah, I said it), the always-over-earnest Anna Kendrick, and Lilla Crawford, who offers the most blood-curdling onscreen screech since Hermione got caught in the Whomping Willow.
Into the Woods overstays its welcome, and, while I enjoyed much of it, by the end I was worn out and more than ready for it to be over.
Into the Woods runs 124 minutes and is rated PG for "thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material."
As this year's movie musicals go, for me it's a poor second to Jersey Boys. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Into the Woods gets five.
The penultimate entry in my weekend movie-fest was Wild.
A woman who has made rather a mess of her life hopes to make things better by taking a solo hike of over 1,000 miles. Clearly said woman has never heard of Oreos.
Anyone reading this likely knows Wild is the sort of movie that makes me want to hit myself in the face repeatedly with a frying pan.
I hadn't ruled out the possibility of a pleasant surprise, but...
If we're being honest, Wild might as well have been called "Please Give Reese Witherspoon Another Oscar." It's not really about anything more than that, and the good news is Witherspoon is fantastic.
In further happy developments, there are actually two or three scenes that *aren't* mind-numbingly boring, and a couple great tunes are thrown in for good measure. It even gets bonus points for brief appearances by W. Earl Brown and Kevin Rankin. The bad news is the movie is otherwise filled with "inspiring" shots of Reese looking at the sky and at the water and at the mountains, and such annoyingly pretentious statements as, "I was never even in the driver's seat of my own life." (By all means, GET in the driver's seat and do a Thelma & Louise, please and thank you.)
The movie feels about a hundred hours long, and would be well served by Gravity's lesson: If your film doesn't have a lot going on and exists solely to show off a performance, an effect, a new technology, whatever, bring it in at 90 minutes. *I* would have been well served by my own lesson:
If you walk into a movie and there are only women in the audience, it's clearly awful and you should get out while you can!
Wild runs 115 minutes and is rated R for "sexual content, nudity, drug use, and language."
If I had to say something nice about Wild, I'd say El Condor Pasa is a great old song I don't hear nearly often enough.
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Wild gets three.
The final movie on my long-weekend docket was The Gambler.
Mark Wahlberg stars as a college professor deep in gambling debt.
It will surprise no one who has ever read this blog that The Gambler was my favorite of the five new movies I saw over the weekend.
Mark Wahlberg is pretty terrific in the lead, carrying the movie mostly on his own despite some solid supporting performances from Jessica Lange and Michael Kenneth Williams.
The film expertly maintains tension throughout, though--not understanding cards myself--I felt like I was late getting the gist whenever that final card was laid down.
Did he win? Did he lose?
I didn't know until I saw which direction the chips got pushed!! If I have one complaint with The Gambler, it's that John Goodman has more shirtless screentime than Mark Wahlberg.
Who thought THAT was a good idea?
However, the film makes up for it by giving us Brainy Mark Wahlberg In Glasses. Mmm...
The Gambler clocks in at 111 minutes and is rated R for "language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity."
It feels a lot like one of those forgettable late winter releases, but The Gambler is still an entertaining couple hours of cinema.
Of a possible nine Weasleys, The Gambler gets six.
Random lessons learned from over 15 hours spent at the movies this weekend:
Seeing the new Star Wars trailer on a big screen is far more moving than fake Oscar-bait emotion.
Advertisements for the coming season of Downton Abbey play like a summer disaster flick.
If you were thinking of seeing any of the five movies mentioned above, go see The Hobbit again instead.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is already my favorite movie of 2015.
Until next time....